Part 42: Star Door 6: Training, Agate-Style-Primal Grounds-
Using every food item I've come across so far has left me with 22 recipes in all.
'Why don't you guys try becoming bracers?'
Those words were all it took to set the wheels in motion.
The three young men Estelle had spoken to, Deen, Rais, and Rocco, were the leaders of a group of delinquents who spent most of their time in the warehouse district of Ruan...
In light of the unprecedented chaos that swept over Liberl, they soon began reexamining themselves and their lives...
and after much thought, they agreed that the path of a bracer--a protector of the land's peace and its people's safety--may be the best road forward for them.
That's not to say, however, that they didn't have any ulterior motives.
No, no, no. They did think it would also give them the opportunity to be trained directly by the guild's Carna.
With this hope in their hearts, they made their way to the Ruan Bracer Guild and expressed interest in joining.
But the guild's crafty receptionist, Jean, had other ideas swirling in his brain...
and unfortunately for them, they were to receive their training from their longtime sworn enemy and former Raven group leader, Agate Crosner.
Their grueling training began in earnest under his strict guidance.
After roughly three months of pure hell, the end was finally in sight.
Only today's final examination remained...
-Rock on the Road-
Why'd our first taste of fresh air have to be somewhere so WEIRD?
It's not like we're here on vacation.
We're here as part of our training! Can't expect to get taken to a theme park or somethin'.
I guess. Wow, that's so grown up of you!
Heh. Glad one of you's got his head screwed on.
I thought I was gonna have to give you guys a lecture on why you're here, but maybe I can spare myself the boring crap after all.
Anyway, that's enough shootin' the shit here.
Bah. Always gotta talk down to us...
As you know, this final exam is what determines whether you pass your training or not. It all hinges on this. Pass, and you're all junior bracers. Fail, and you ain't.
Either way, let me say this. I'm impressed you've made it this far without dropping out. I wasn't sure you had it in you, but you sure as hell proved me wrong.
D-Did he just praise us...?
Wh-What's gotten into him?
I think I'm gonna be sick.
What kinda heartless monster do you guys think I am?
Just hurry up and spill the details. I'm gettin' sick of standing around here. I wanna get started.
That shows balls. Good.
All right. Let's get down to it, then.
Your task's simple enough. You're gonna make your way through a cave full of monsters. Get to the end, and you pass.
I thought our exam was gonna be in this valley... We gotta go somewhere else now?
Quit whinin'. It's not far from here.
It'll be harder than it sounds, but if you get to the end in one piece, you get your badges. I'm not giving you a strict time limit, but the longer you take, the longer you keep me waitin', so don't push your luck.
That's it. Any questions?
All we have to do is go for a walk while beating up some monsters!
This exam was made for us!
This should be kinda fun.
...That's a no to the questions, I guess.
Well, Whemler? I'll be countin' on you to back 'em up for me.
Whemler: Well, if you insist... You're sure they're up for this, though?
It'll be fine. Trust me.
Okay. Let's get our butts over to that cave.
This here's the entrance.
Never would've thought there was a cave way out here...
Heh. So this is the place that's gonna determine our futures, huh?
It's sure hidden well enough.
Well, you already know what you're doing.
I'll be waiting for you at the end, so give it your best shot.
Whemler: If things get too dicey and you need a break or something to eat, come to me.
Sounds like an easy enough job for you. As if we'll even need to come back here.
Yeah! We'll breeze through this thing in no time!
All right, then!
I'm ready if you guys are!
Time to get to work.
Short-sleeved leather jackets? Okay, fellas.
Before you start, you should stick this Cat Tail on somebody.
And take Whemler up on his offer of food.
Ate Abaddon Potluck.
Whemler: Good luck in there.
Whemler's cooking will give two of the Ravens 100 CP, but the third will just get a mean case of sour tummy. So have a nap to settle him out.
Yeah. Tons of empty space to fight in.
Hmph. You know as well as I do making it through this cave isn't gonna be the main event.
It's him we're dealing with, here. He'll be waitin' for us at the end to challenge us to a fight. I guarantee it.
You think so, too, huh?
...Well, going by all our training so far, it's a pretty safe guess. That's how every other exercise has ended.
I wonder how well we're gonna be able to do against him this time.
I feel like we've gotten pretty strong. We might have a chance, but who knows?
...Either way, this is a good chance to get back at him for having to put up with his crap all the time.
Let's get going and give him hell.
Right there with you!
That's one ugly monster.
It might LOOK that way, but I bet it's small fry.
Probably just to scare predators off. The weaker somethin' is, the meaner it's gonna look.
That description kinda sounds like it fits us, too...
I-I think it noticed us!
Time to make it wish it hadn't!
If you try to just trade hits with a Blade Fang--or approach anything else in this sidestory like you would with your normal party--then you'll get slaughtered.
Against this guy, you have to have one of the Ravens lead off with this instead:
Wh-What the...? I thought we were stronger than this...
For once, there's actually a little merit to the JRPG conceit of making every halfway-significant battle the TOUGHEST BATTLE EVER HOW DID WE SURVIVE.
It's not that we're weak... That monster was just that strong.
Agate sure didn't say anythin' about this...
*sigh* Why'd he have to go and choose here...?
He's finally decided to bump you guys off, and this was the perfect way. Sorry.
So much for your theory, Rocco.
That monster didn't just look strong. It WAS strong!
Hmph. You call that strong?
You've gotta be kiddin' me.
What do you mean?
T-Tryin' to act like it's no big deal isn't gonna impress us, y'know! We could see you strugglin' the whole time!
Maybe you need your eyes checked, then.
Anyway, who cares how tough it was? Let's get moving. We've got work to do.
Well, that one shouldn't be too tough...
Yeah. We've seen those things near Ruan...
Let's hop to it!
Well, it was easier to beat than the last monster...
Hell of a lot stronger than the ones near Ruan, though...
Looks like we're gonna have to accept that all the monsters in here're tougher than the ones we know.
Why am I struggling against these guys?! They should be nothing! Damn it, damn it, DAMN IT!
H-Hey... Calm down, Rocco. We might be struggling, but it's not like we can't take 'em. As long as we take things slow and rest after every fight, we got this.
Rest after every battle?!
If we need to take a break after every loser of a monster like that, how're we ever gonna catch up to that asshole?!
I-Is this really the time to think about that?
The next one is gonna be a breeze. It is!
Hmph. Here's our next one, I guess.
There's no way we'll struggle against this guy!
Don't be so sure. After the other fights here, there's no way I'm letting my guard down this time.
Stay cautious, guys.
These little jerks are way too quick, and I'm not sure there's any real counter for it.
Hot-Hot Potato Fries and Flower Milkshakes will cure Freeze. Lots of luck if those run out.
Whew... That's that.
Yeah... That one ended up being tough, too, but nothin' we couldn't handle.
Bah... If only there was three of me.
You say somethin'?
Couldn't you hear me?
I meant what I said.
If only there was three of me instead of just me and you two jokes, I'd've been done by now.
I'd'ven't bet on that.
*sigh* If you say so, man...
Well, unfortunately for you, this is the group we've got, and we're gonna have to stick with it.
Keep your shit-talkin' to yourself, all right?
Just don't drag me down.
I always put this on Rocco for no real reason, but it should probably go on Deen or Rais. The Feather Brooch, too.
This square looks safe, right?
Nope! Rais's loose shoelace was in the blast radius. Tie your shoes, Rais!
Cryon Bits are too mature to let any trash talk get to them.
not pictured: the Blade Fang right behind me
I dunno... It doesn't look like anything special, but that's a weird place for one to be.
What's your damage?! Don't wander over to random crap when you don't know what it is!
Whoa! It's moving!
...Maybe that warning was a liiittle too late.
The Invigorate buff ran out before Rais could even get a turn.
Whew... That scared the heck outta me.
No doubt. Who'd have thought a rock would turn into a monster?
Well, maybe you wouldn't have been scared if you hadn't been such a dumbass! What was I just saying about draggin' me down?!
For the love of Aidios...
That goes for you, too, Deen. You ever gonna grow out of being such a damn coward?
Ugh... At this rate, we're not even gonna be able to get through here by sundown. Maybe it's time I cut the dead weight and went on by myself.
What was that?
You heard me.
If you're that determined to go by yourself, be my guest! You're the tough one here, right? You can handle everything by yourself, right?! Why would you want a bunch'a weaklings like us around? Get movin', tough guy!
Try sayin' that again!
Besides, the only reason we're even here in this cave right now is because YOU thought this was a good idea! I'm sick of it! And I sure as hell don't wanna be told I'm getting in the way by the guy who forced me into this crap!
Come on, Rais. We're outta here.
Yeah. I'm good with that.
I know when I'm not needed. No point in hanging around after being told I'm dead weight.
...Heh. That's how it's gonna be, huh?
See ya never.
Doesn't he ever get tired keepin' up that act 24/7?
Who cares? He's on his own now.
Oh, did you think this was a rough time with just the three Raven leaders in your party? Let's fix that.
He might be pretty strong, but the monsters in here are, like, way stronger than any one of us.
Hmph. Who cares?
He was the one who said he wanted to go ahead on his own. He made his bed--let him lie in it.
Haven't seen one like this before!
What IS this creepy thing?!
Octobones are just total bastards.
This repeated itself five or six times.
Man... That was nasty.
And Rocco's walking ahead alone in a place crawlin' with monsters just like that...
I feel like this really ain't the time for us to be fighting each other and tryin' to act big.
Have you ever seen Rocco show any sign of weakness before? Ever?
Now that you mention it, no.
Same here... He might be pretendin' he's strong all the time, but he never lets any sign of weakness slip or whines like we do.
He's always the one who's pushin' us and tryin' to make us better ourselves.
Yeah... I guess you're right.
I mean, if it wasn't for him, we really wouldn't be here. We'd still be loiterin' around back in Ruan forever, probably.
... We can let all the dead weight stuff slide this once.
Maybe he pisses me off sometimes, but I ain't about to turn my back on him when he's always had ours.
Hahaha. Damn straight!
Yo, Deen! That looks like him!
You see him?
What's that idiot doing?!
Ugh... Damn it! I can't move... Ngh...
Looks like this...is the end of the line for me...
This ain't good! He's frozen!
Can you handle it, Rais?
I-I can move.
Heh. You're a real sorry sight, man!
Sorry for keepin' you waiting.
Th-The hell are you guys doing here?!
I thought you bailed!
More like we came to bail you out! ♪
But we can talk later! We've got a fight on our hands!
-Fight With Assailant-
I probably should have saved the Meatballs for this.
Whew... Good thing we made it in time.
Seriously... You really bit off more than you could chew this time, Rocky.
What're you two doing here?! Why'd you come after me?! Even without you guys, I could've handled that jus--
No, you couldn't, you dumbass!
What was that?!
For once in your life, stop being so stubborn! If we hadn't come when we did, you would've been dead! And you know it, too! You just don't wanna say it!
Wh-What was that?!
...Nah. I guess I haven't got the right to be gettin' all angry.
Sorry, man. I shouldn't've told you to go on alone like I did.
I might've said earlier that I was only trying to become a bracer because you pushed us into it...
...but I swear, that's not the only reason. There's no way I could've made it through all that insane training we got put through and not quit partway if that was the only reason. I would've thrown in the towel a long time ago if I wasn't serious about this.
What he said.
I'm just as serious about this as you are, you know.
I know you're in a rush to try and be as tough as Agate and everythin', and I can't blame you...
...but whether it's how you'd want things or not, the three of us are in this together. It wouldn't hurt to rely on us at least a little, would it?
...All right. You got me. And I ain't no dumbass, Deen. I know my limits.
You're probably right. I was just in so much of a rush to try and narrow the gap between us that I lost sight of myself.
But that last fight was enough to open my eyes. I'm not up for the task of getting through this place alone.
I know now that I need you guys with me every step of the way.
...So, sorry. Would you two let me stick with you again?
Heh. Come ON. Really?
As if you even need to ask!
Hahaha! What's gotten into you two? Anyone'd look at you two now and think smooching and wedding bells're in your future!
You've made up, so make with the kissing!
Oh, shove it up your ass!
Besides, YOU still owe me an apology!
Huh? For what?
When someone's frozen, you're supposed to use an item on them or something! You know, like a Curia Balm!
Were you TRYING to kill me?!
H-Hey! It did the trick, right?
Ugh... I guess.
Maybe I do owe you one.
Wh-What's gotten into you?
W-Wait... Am I the one you wanna smooch?
In your dreams.
Haha. Well, anyway. Let's get going!
You got it!
I have no issues with kleptomania; I'm quite content with it.
I wonder if Ragnard's home.
Whoa... This is way more roomy than the other caves we've been in.
You think this is the end of the line? It sure looks that way.
I don't see anything here, though...or anyone.
Maybe we haven't finished exploring?
*clap clap clap clap clap*
Man's Voice: Nah, you're done. Nice work, guys.
Where'd YOU come from?!
You were tailin' us the whole time, weren't you?
Bingo. I've seen everything that's happened on the way here.
I figured you wouldn't find it easy, but I wasn't expecting you all to split up partway through.
Th-That was your fault for picking this place!
We wouldn't've split up if you picked somewhere less complicated...
Heh. That's WHY I picked this place, numbnuts.
I wanted to see how you'd react when you found yourselves in a complex situation.
And I got exactly what I wanted out of it.
Huh... Yeah, I can buy that.
Thanks a lot.
You guys're already squared away in battle, I'll give you that. On that front, you're already ahead of your average junior bracer.
You really think so...?
But that's only in terms of strength.
Unfortunately, you need more than that to be a good bracer, junior or senior. What I saw today really helped me make up my mind on whether you're cut out for this line of work.
Hmph. Good for you.
I still don't have enough to go on to make the final call, though. If you want to prove to me that you've got what it takes...
-Till the Night of Glory-
...then you're gonna have to prove it to my heavy blade first!
*sigh* How did I know this is how it was gonna go...?
Duh! 'Cause it was obvious.
You wanna see what we've got? Then we'd be happy to show you!
Come at me!
GO!! *furious yelling*
Agate will shake off Shakedown after just five or six turns.
-This Is Our Real Power!-
Sorry, Deen. I tried.
W-We did it?
No joke? We seriously beat him?
Well, well... I'm impressed.
Of COURSE it was too good to be true...
Heh. Don't go gettin' too down in the dumps. You managed to get one over me. You should still feel proud of yourselves.
The current tally: Ravens 1, Agate 387.
...Anyway, now I'm confident I've got a good handle on what you're capable of.
So let me break down how you did.
You're gonna tell us our exam results, then?
Here it comes...
First up: Deen.
As a plus, your judgment ain't anything to sniff at.
On the other hand, you have a tendency to play it safe even when you don't have to.
You're next, Rais.
Lay it on me!
Your forte is your intuition. In that department, there's solid potential.
As far as negatives go, it's hard to overlook how careless you can be when a situation calls for critical thinking.
Finally, there's you, Rocco.
I'll give you credit for your determination and unrelenting drive to get the job done... but I really can't praise your inability to make calm, rational decisions.
Stick those two qualities together and you're a walking accident waiting to happen on your own.
So as I'm sure you can already tell, the three of you just aren't there yet. You're all missing something before I could call you 'ready.'
Watching you all work, I was on tenterhooks the whole time.
I hate to admit it, but...
...he's probably right.
Guess we're done, then.
That's just if I rate the three of you as individuals.
If I rate you as a team, then my verdict becomes a little different.
Watching you take on that last monster on the way here was when I was finally able to stake my confidence in you. Individually, none of you meet the mark...but slap the three of you together, and you just about squeeze over the line.
And that's why I'm gonna give you a passing grade--on one condition.
-Dancing With The Wind-
What's the condition?
You can be bracers, but you can only accept jobs as a group of three. Not individually.
Not until you become senior bracers, anyway. We'll see where you stand then. I'll be passing the news on to Jean, so once that's done and over with, he can throw all the work you can handle your way.
That's right. I want you to build up experience working together as a group, work on each of your weaknesses...
...then by the time you hit senior level, you'll hopefully be ready to take on the kind of solo work that you can't do now.
Heh. I see.
I can't help but feel lame for only getting a conditional pass...
Sure, but it beats flunking out completely.
Exactly. Well, I'll be expecting a lot of improvement from you guys.
By the way, you planning on stickin' to stun rods as your main weapons? I'll buy you all new ones from the weapon shop in Bose in honor of you passing. Just a little somethin' from me.
Y-You're gonna buy us something?!
...I think I'm gonna be sick.
For cryin' out loud... My rep with you guys is even worse than I thought.
I'm not some kinda evil monster that feeds off of pain and suffering, you know.
Heh. Could've fooled me.
He might be right, though. I mean, he's always nice to that little girl. He's gotta have a soft spot hidden in there somewhere!
What was her name? Tita?
You wanna run that by me again?
(C-Crap... Why'd you have to go and bring her up?)
...So that's how you guys wanna play this, huh?
I should've known bein' nice wasn't gonna get me anywhere.
*sigh* Way to frickin' go, Rais...
No more messin' around! Your asses're gonna be running your way back to the entrance! Anyone who falls behind any more than I'm willing to allow gets my blade chucked in the back of their head!
Argh... Right. You're the one with the most stamina here, Rocco! You gotta lead the way so he doesn't catch up with us!
Heh. That was the plan all along.
*sigh* Exhausting right to the very end, huh...?
Less talking, more running!
Side Story [Training, Agate-Style] finished!
Received Super Gladiator Headband.
Received 100 mira.
Agate you cheap bastard
The Headband's pretty nice, though, with a bigger CP boost than the normal headband.